Au Revoir Paris, Bonjour Normandy. Link to article/ part 1 of the trip:

The friendly cabin stuart had placed the next-days-info-sheet in the cabin during dinner time and prepared the very comfortable beds. I slept like a marmot; not least because the rather thin cabin walls are optimally insolated against noises from the neighborhood.

Thanks to equally good sound insolation of the engines, the ship purrs (1.50 draft, engine power 2 x 783 kW) at about 20 km/ hour like a kitten. Only in the five lock areas the maneuvering sometimes causes a few bumps. On the 380-kilometer route from Paris to the Atlantic Ocean an altitude of almost 25-meters has to be compensated. Starting from Rouen, the Seine is also navigable for ocean-going vessels (compulsory pilotage) and is subject to a considerable tidal range of four to six meters.

LES ANDELYS with its strong castle (builder was no other than Richard Lionheart) and Vernon/ GIVERNY in the department Eure are tranquil hamlets in autumn, but offer romantic walks. Especially the park and villa of the painter Monet is worth a visit. This is the place where the famous water-lily pond with the small arch bridge was originally painteda must for all gardening friends and art lovers. In another art gallery I met Frederic Duclos, a legitimate “successor of Monet”. As of today, he still uses painting colors of the German (!) company Lukas, as his famous predecessors once did.

Unfortunately, the romantic tea room with Seine view in Les Andelys was closed, so I was looking forward to a good cup of tea on board. Meanwhile, the “Comtesse” continues her journey and follows the winding Seine (in total 777 kilometers) overnight to CAUDEBEC-EN-CAUX. After dinner you meet in the bar or listen to the late night program (French chansons) in the salon. Ordering a regional herbal liqueur, called “Benedictine”, I let the day end.

Since the water is still about 12 degrees, but the outside morning temperature only 4 degrees centigrade, mystical-like fog is floating above the water (I love this atmosphere). Today I am looking forward to my excursions to Honfleur and Etretat, while passing beautiful landscapes and dreamy villages with traditional “Chaumieren” (thatched roofed houses with plantings on the roof ridge) and a 1000-year-old oak, which is used as a mini-church.

In the harbor town HONFLEUR  you immediately feel the maritime flair. Fisher boats and yachts bob in the picturesque harbor basin (vieux basin) and in the small fish hall all sorts of delicious sea food is ready for consumption. I cannot resist and let me open a fresh oyster (for free!) to taste the Sea:

Another specialty of the Department Calvados besides the fine-sparkling cider, is the famous apple brandy. Depending on how long the destilat was stored in oak barrels or if it is a single or double burned version, it develops a mild or pithy apple flavor. Quality, however, has its price. For 2 cl of a 15-year-old Calvados, you’ve to pay approx. EURO 15.-.

A tip for lovers of caramel candies: Here they are produced with salted butter (caramels au beurre sale), which creates a herb intense flavor. As a syrup this caramel mass tastes also excellent together with crepe/ pancakes.

Passing the historic salt storage and the church Ste. Catherine (built in the middle of the 15th century) I walk up the hillside, which allows wonderful views into enchanted courtyards and gardens. Honfleur has always been a magnet for artists and scholars like Baudelaire, Satie and Boudin. Finally, I treat myself a short stop in one of the rustic harbor pubs, the “Parroquet vert” and then …. I’m ready for “La Mer”.

I would have liked to make a detour to the noble seaside resort Deauville (25 kilometers) or even to Omaha Beach (D-Day landing of the Allies on June 6th, 1944). Instead the journey continues over the “Pont de Normandie” (built in 1995), an imposing cable-constructed bridge (pillar height 50 meters above sealevel, the highest pylon is even 215 meters high) on the other bank of the Seine in the direction of Le Havre (172,000 inhabitants) wiki / Le Havre  and the destination ETRETAT.

The attraction of the small seaside resort in the department Seine –Maritime are the “Falaise”, almost 100 meters high white cliffs similar to those of Rügen or Dover. This area is geologically dominated by limestone, white chalk and flintstone. Therefore the section between Dieppe and Le Havre is named Alabaster Coast. The three distinctive arches (called Porte d’Amont, Porte d’Aval and Manneporte) attract visitors in all seasons. Right now it is high tide and the sun has unfortunately disappeared behind some clouds. On a sunny day, the cliffs are a truly dazzling sight.

At this point some remarks regarding my fellow travelers. Despite very knowledgeable dedicated guides, the majority simply does not listen, knows everything better or needs a toilet. As a result, unfortunately, a lot of time is lost, which could have been used for an extended excursion radius.

This circumstance is also known to the “hotel manager” (responsible for everything inside the ship, incl. staff, accommodation and food supply) and the “cruise director”. Thanks God, both are nerve-racking experienced “matadors” who keep an eye on all requirements with high personal commitment. In case of doubt, they have to make impossible things possible – mostly without the guests notice.

If, for example, the air conditioning / heating system would permanently fail, it would be necessary to replace the ship within some hours. Transporting all persons including luggage and food supplies to another ship would be a logistical masterpiece. Last summer such a situation almost happened because of too low water in river Rhine.

Upon my request, I may exceptionally have a look behind the scenes of the “floating island”. I am allowed to see the small laundry and in compliance with all hygiene regulations also the kitchen and storage rooms. Again, everything is tip-top: on the table linen are not the slightest stains or even worn fabric edges. After all, all bathroom, bed and table linen for the max. 150 passengers (75 cabins) as well as the crew uniforms is washed/ taken care of on board. If necessary, you can also use this service as a passenger.

The kitchen is pleasingly spacious; Master cook is incidentally a young Romanian. There is still a lot to say, but the time on board has passed much too fast. Take a ride yourself and experience a river cruise first hand.

At 12 o’clock the “Seine Comtesse” finally reaches Rouen, where my short journey ends. Unfortunately it was clouded day, but as I like to say: If you like a place in the rain, it pleases you even more in the sunshine.

ROUEN (110,500 inhabitants, capital of the Normandy) is for me a mixture of Strasbourg and Brussels. Here the eyes see hundreds of colored timbered facades, spiers, stately townhouses and modern buildings. From the pier you can easily walk to the historical center (right side of the Seine) in five minutes. Of particular interest are the Cathedral “Notre Dame”, the Parliament, Rue du Gros Horloge, the cobbled stone streets of the Carré d’Or and the Place du Vieux-Marché (Old Market). Here once stood the pyre where Jeanne d’ Arc was burnt  in 1431 as a 19-year-old girl during the 100-Years War.  No, not everything was better in the past.

My tip: make a detour to the stately courthouse near the cathedral. Usually you get free access to the impressive large gallery (a Harry Potter like scenery).

For my next river cruise I would rather prefer a small pool on deck in the summer and a sauna/ infrared cabin with river view in autumn/ winter time.

Furthermore it must be fascinating to be present during the launching of a ship and its baptism. Such an event is obviously coming up. In 2020 the new stylish NickoSPIRIT will be put into service and will mainly sail along the rivers Rhine, Main and Moselle. Unfortunately not “my preferred region, since I live in this area anyway. But I will certainly find a way to get on board again; why not, when the new “SPIRIT” will anchor in Speyer or Mannheim next year. SHIP AHOI !!!!


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P.S.  As usual, the 60-minute transition period in Paris on arrival from Rouen at the Gare Lazare to the Gare de l’Est (only 3 kilometers) was very short again. Only leaving the bus in favor of a sustained spurt over 800 meters made it possible to reach the train at the last chance. Since the chef of the bistro car had noticed this, he promptly donated a coke. At this point, thanks to the Deutsche Bahn.


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